Byrd in Hand

Posted May 19, 2008 at 5:33pm

The presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) received the endorsement Monday of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) in a move that is heavy with symbolism.

[IMGCAP(1)]Byrd’s announcement comes days after Obama lost the May 13 West Virginia Democratic contest to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), 67 percent to 26 percent.

The 90-year-old Byrd is the longest-serving Senator and had been an uncommitted superdelegate. Clinton had wooed Byrd during her tenure in the Senate, and he often spoke highly of her.

Byrd has a mixed record on race issues. In his youth, he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and in Congress, he filibustered the 1964 Voting Rights Act. He has said many times that both were mistakes he regretted.

He said he did not intend to involve himself in the presidential primary, but he felt compelled because of his opposition to the Iraq War.

“I believe that Barack Obama is a shining young statesman, who possesses the personal temperament and courage necessary to extricate our country from this costly misadventure in Iraq, and to lead our nation at this challenging time in history. Barack Obama is a noble-hearted patriot and humble Christian, and he has my full faith and support,” Byrd said in a statement.

West Virginia’s junior Senator, Jay Rockefeller (D), also has endorsed Obama.

— Tim Taylor